The Lake House
James Patterson
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The Lake House
James Patterson
416 pages
April 2004
rated 2 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Just in time to tap into the summer market for easy beach reading, Patterson revisits the theme of his 1998 success When the Wind Blows. That was one of his most well-received novels worldwide, and fans have been waiting for the sequel to the tale of six genetically altered children who are part human, part bird.

The sibling bird/children are in the midst of a court battle that has turned into a media circus. The man and woman who have championed the children's rescue from "the School" where they were imprisoned are petitioning family court for guardianship. FBI agent Kit Brennan and veterinarian Frannie O'Neill value the exceptional qualities of the gifted children, but the biological parents have intervened for guardianship, even though that will mean separating the siblings. Using the discretion of the court, the judge, considering the best interests of the children, rules in favor of the biological parents.

Kit and Frannie are heartbroken and fearful, deeply concerned about the safety of these young creatures and aware that a number of nefarious individuals are seeking to exploit and/or experiment with the children. They realize that the world is ill-prepared for any aberrant life forms, even if only as a curiosity. The kids are particularly vulnerable to the evil-intentioned Dr. Ethan Kane, an M&M-loving genetic scientist preparing for "the Resurrection" -- his personal effort to extend the lives of key world leaders.

His primary target is Maximum, or Max, the oldest female and most sophisticated of the children, aged twelve but with the maturity of an adult. Yet all the children are in danger as hired assassins move closer. Helping each other, they fly to safety once but are later recaptured. The "killers" remain a mystery, somewhat reminiscent of Koontz's The Watchers, but without the attraction of Koontz's characters. What ensues is a battle for the preservation of "the flock" as Frannie, Kit and the kids are taken to Dr. Kane's "Hospital", where his plans are well underway in the harvest of unsuspecting donor's organs.

Patterson has established a definite niche market, mass audience appeal and international recognition. By dipping into fantasy instead of his popular, if formulaic, mystery/suspense, Patterson welcomes new fans of the sci-fi genre. But an abbreviated style that works for fast-paced mysteries leaves The Lake House without sufficient depth for the many plot twists. Its text filled with question marks, italics and exclamation points, the real answers are never addressed. The end of this chapter of the avian children's lives begs believability, but, rest assured, we have not seen the last of this series.

The dialog is directed at a broad audience, but the banalities are legion. In one half-page alone, Patterson pens the following:

"U must stand for unbelievably lucky."

"She reminded herself: Fear is not the answer. Not ever!"

"I said- move it or lose it guys! Hustle your buns! Now!"
Such generic comments are not difficult to attribute to youngsters, but these children, especially Max, have IQs that read off the charts. "No way!"

© 2003 by Luan Gaines for Curled Up With a Good Book

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